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Unraveling A Midsummer Night’s Dream

14 Jun 2017Literature Essays

Love. Fantasy. Intrigue. These are the elements that make A Midsummer Nights’ Dream one of the most popular of all Shakespearean plays. Written sometime in the 1950s, it is a romantic comedy which circled on the love farce of four Athenian lovers, the quarrel between Oberon and Titania, and the journey of Quince’s company.

The play started with Hermia’s reluctance to marrying Demetrius, whom Egeus wants for Hermia. Under the Athenian law, she has to marry whom her father chooses for her or either vow to single blessedness or be executed. Apparently, Hermia decided to elope with Lysander, the man she loves. The two told Helena, Hermia’s friend, their plans of escaping to the woods the next day, who then tells Demetrius. The four went to the woods where their farce begun.

Meanwhile, Oberon and Titania, king and queen of the fairyland, are quarrelling over whom shall keep an orphaned Indian boy. Oberon summoned Puck to get a juice from the magical flower so that he can enchant Titania to falling in love to an ugly creature and thus give the boy to him. He also asked Puck to put some love juice to Demetrius so that he will pursue Helena instead of Hermia. But then Puck put the love juice to Lysander’s eyes mistaking him for Demetrius. Oberon seeing Demetrius still pursuing Hermia, ordered Puck to put some love juice to Demetrius eyes. Turning things upside down, the two men, Lysander and Demetrius followed Helena and quarreled over her instead. Hermia was left behind. Helena could not believe what was happening because she knows not one of them loves her originally.

On the other hand, a company is rehearsing for their play Pyramus and Thisbe for the celebration of the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta. Bottom, the weaver, was chosen to play the role of Pyramus. Puck saw Bottom near Titania’s bower and turned his head into that of an ass. Titania heard him sing and looked for him. Titania, still with the love juice in her eyes, fell in loved with Bottom. She treated him like a noble man despite his appearance. Titania forgets about the orphan boy and gave him to Oberon. Apparently, Titania was released from the enchantment and Puck also removed the ass head from Bottom. In order to fix things up, Oberon ordered Puck to remove the love juice on Lysander’s eyes but not on Demetrius. Theseus found the two couples at the wood and since Demetrius is in loved with Helena, Hermia was freed of marrying Demetrius. All confused with the night’s happenings, they thought that everything was a just a dream. They had a triple wedding and watch the horrible play of Pyramus and Thisbe.

Shakespeare, in this story, played on the theme of love. Friedlander writes, “The theme of a daughter who wants to marry against her father’s desires was a common theme in Roman comedy”. Shakespeare pursued this theme as he allowed Hermia to be with Lysander at the end. Even there was love chaos between the four lovers; it ended with the right person being with the right lover. It manifested the strong power of love as Hermia chooses to be with Lysander, fleeing to a land where the Athenian law could not persecute them and leaving the place to which she considered as heaven.

It also revealed the irrationalities of love like Helena’s love for Demetrius makes him hate her while Hermia’s hate for him, makes him love her more. It shows that with love, the impossible could be a reality. Furthermore, it is because of this love that Demetrius was forced to love Helena through the love potion which was initiated by the fairies. It was as if nature and its natural forces was the one making things right by intervening to this love feud. The fairies could be a symbolism of fate or destiny as they put things to where they supposed to be.

Nevertheless, Benedotto Croce says that despite the chaos and love farce, it was still a comedy. He writes, “Love is sincere, yet deceives and is deceived; it imagines itself to be firm and constant, and turns out to be fragile and fleeting” (386-3877). Hermia’s love for Lysander and the other way around could have had stopped in that wood, but then, at the end of the play it is their love that stood out. Lovers may be deceived by their emotions but it is the unique characteristic of love.

Another theme found in the play was fantasy. Shakespeare gave significant roles to the fairies. It was Oberon and Titania’s quarrel that started it all. It is also them that fixed everything up at the end. Likewise, fairy magic was one of the strong points of the play. This might be based on old folk traditions where mysterious creatures are thought to live on forests like fairies, elves, dwarves and goblins. People might believe or not believe on this supernatural realm but it certainly added a spice on the play making it more magical and unique.

Friedlander further writes, “the play focuses on how emotions, however irrational color perception. Shakespeare is writing about how fantasy and imagination influence how we see the world and how we see and behave toward each other”. This was manifested when Helena said that Demetrius was stupid and has no good taste when in fact she loves him. At the same way Hermia complains that his father should see Lysander in her eyes and Theseus replies that she should see with her father’s judgment look, though, no two person see things at the same way. It reveals that emotions greatly affect judgment and insight. Emotions at most times make the mind narrower and irrational. Moreover, it is the reason why at times humans have impulsive decisions. They act and talk with their feelings and not with their minds.

The play had also intrigue. A Midsummer Night’s Dream had kindled the minds of the readers as it suggests feminism. In the setting, there is the dominance of Theseus and Egeus in Athens as shown in the first scene where Hermia was brought to the Court. It was the reason why Hermia and Helena fled to the woods and supposedly to the land where they could not be reached by Athenian law. Theseus and Egeus illustrated power and control over the female making the Hermia and Helena clamor for freedom. At the same time, when the couples arrived at Athens, they were married. It was believed that marriage is one of the societal achievements of women. In the book of Leonard Tennenhouse entitled Power on Display, he said that in the play, there was “authority gone archaic” (73). He further differentiated the patriarchal rule of Theseus in Athens with Oberon’s carnivalistic and enthusiastic supernatural world. He also explained that the carnivalistic atmosphere in fairyland breaks down the male power since it destroys the order that is previously maintained in Athens. But at the end of the play, Theseus forgives the lovers and thus, according to Tennenhouse, contrasted Theseus’ monarch rule to Egeus’ patriarchal rule (74-76).

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is definitely one of the best plays of Shakespeare. It is not only because of the great plot and storyline but its impact to the readers and even to the society. It had brought awareness to the readers on love, fantasy and intrigue. A Midsummer Night’s Dream also introduced us to the world of imagination where we can be who we are, be with whom we want and achieve what we want. As Friedlander says, “Even if we pride ourselves (as Lysander does) on being "rational", there are important facets of our humanity that are both non-rational and beyond our control.”A Midsummer Night's Dream" celebrates this essential fact of life.”
Since it was written it has had many versions in books, theatre, and cinema. It made us realize that nothing is impossible with love. And because of this love, there could be times that you could not differentiate a dream from reality.

Citations

  • Croce, Benedetto. “Comedy of Love.” A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Eds. Judith M. Kennedy and Richard F. Kennedy. London: Athlone Press, 1999. 386-7.
  • Friedlander, Ed (1999) Enjoying "A Midsummer Night's Dream" by William Shakespeare 
  • Tennenhouse, Leonard. Power on Display: The Politics of Shakespeare’s Genres. New York: Methuen, Inc., 1986. 73-76

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